Dietary Guidelines

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Plate it up

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

As mentioned last week, the Food Guide Pyramid has been replaced and the latest nutritional tool from the USDA is an image of a plate.  This diagram can be a useful and simple way to plan balanced meals.  The image chosen by the USDA is slightly different from the plate picture I teach and use myself in that vegetables and fruits make up half the USDA plate.  The plate format I teach has half of the plate filled with vegetables and a serving of fruit on the side.  Is one variation better?   The USDA possibly chose their version because having everything on one plate is simple and compact.  However, this model does underemphasize vegetables.  Bottom line is that both versions can be helpful building blocks for a healthy diet and this is a step in the right direction, a step away from the confusing pyramid.

Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for more information on the new USDA plate model.

The new and improved NON food guide pyramid

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

On Thursday of this week, a new version of the food guide pyramid will be released – a version that is no longer in the shape of a pyramid. The food guide pyramid has long been criticized as confusing and not consumer friendly despite tweaks periodically over the years.  This new version, to be unveiled by Michelle Obama, will be in the shape of a plate and will likely match the plate discussed in VUES classrooms this year during national nutrition month. It is said to focus on a few key messages including enjoying food but eating less, choosing water over sugary drinks, filling half of your plate with vegetables, and choosing low fat dairy foods. Stay tuned!

“3”

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Today’s theme is “3” – as in the location of a double bond in the chemical structure of omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3s, as they are more commonly known, are a nutritional buzzword but how much do you actually know about them?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a specific group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  PUFAs have multiple double bonds in their chemical structure, as compared to monounsaturated fatty acids, which have only one double bond, and saturated fatty acids, which have none.  The names of the omega-3 fatty acids  are alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (say those five times fast.)

These fatty acids are considered essential because the human body can not make them –you must get them through food.  They are found in oily cold-water fish, such as salmon, trout, halibut, herring, and albacore tuna.  Other sources include flaxseed and flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, and canola/rapeseed oil.

Time for the “so what” answer.  Omega-3s have been repeatedly shown to be an important part of a healthy diet.  Research shows that they reduce inflammation and may reduce risk of heart disease,
cancer, arthritis.  Furthermore, these fatty acids are concentrated in the brain and may play a role in memory, cognition, and behavior.  Sounds good to me.

The current recommendation of enjoying fish at least twice a week is a great way to boost your omega-3s.  Also, before dashing off for a supplement, be sure and talk to your physician or dietitian.

The Big Chill

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

 March is not only National Nutrition Month but it is also National Frozen Food Month.  This is a perfect pairing, particularly given the tight pinch many are feeling in their wallets these days.  Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great option when fresh produce is out of season or has a higher price tag.   Don’t stress about nutrient quality of frozen foods.  The losses can be small and overall, it is far better to choose a frozen fruit or vegetable than none at all.  If you can though, choose bags in which the pieces are still individually frozen.  A solid, ice-crusted bag, as seen in some freezer cases, suggests that lots of thawing and refreezing may have occurred and that the taste and quality are not as good.

  • Top hot or cold breakfast cereal with a serving of frozen fruit.
  • Use frozen broccoli florets as a topping for pizza or a baked potato.
  • Boost the nutrient content of canned soups by pouring in some frozen vegetables while heating.
  • Use frozen fruit in place of ice cubes to cool your drink.
  • Whip up a last minute fruit dessert with a scoop of plain yogurt, a combination of frozen fruit and a sprinkling of mini-chocolate chips.
  • Green up some scrambled eggs or frittata with some thawed, drained, and squeezed frozen spinach.
  • Create a quick weekday stir-fry by sauting frozen mixed vegetables with a little low-sodium soy sauce and chicken cutlets.  Serve atop brown rice.

Color your plate – naturally

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

An important topic to stress, given this year’s national nutrition month’s theme is to increase color in your diet, is the importance of adding color naturally.  Colorful foods have long been known to be more appealing and food manufacturers have attempted to capitalize on this fact by enhancing the color of the foods they sell.  Hence, the birth of color additives.  Color additives are fairly widespread.  Without them, cola wouldn’t be brown, margarine wouldn’t be yellow, and farmed salmon wouldn’t be pink.

There are two basic types of color additives.  Some are pigments that come from natural sources, such as vegetables, minerals, or animals.   A few examples of these are annatto extract, dehydrated beets, paprika, and caramel.  Other color additives are synthetically produced and as such, are subject to approval by the FDA based upon research.   It is these color additives of which to be aware.  Yes, they are approved but given the fact that they are still artificial additives and some research is controversial, it is wise to monitor your intake and choose natural colors as much as possible.   Artificial colorings most controversial include Red 3, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6. 

It is interesting to note that different versions of the same foods are sold in the United States compared to Europe due to a stricter policy in Europe on artificial colorings.  This begs the question, why the need for artificial coloring in the US if it looks just as well using natural colors? Increased public pressure on the FDA may help change their policy.  Until then, is it really worth the risk to have a green colored mint ice cream?

National Nutrition Month

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

March is national nutrition month and this year’s theme is “Eat Right with Color!” What exactly does that mean?  Adding a colorful variety of foods to your plate also adds more nutrients.  This is because the pigments that give foods their bright colors are associated with many potential health benefits.  Each color has a different benefit to the body so it is important to eat a variety of colors to receive the entire rainbow of benefits.  For example, the red in foods such as cherries and tomatoes is an antioxidant in the body, reducing damage done to cells.  It also helps prevent heart disease, cancer, and reduces the skin damage from the sun.  The green in fruits and vegetables, such as avocado, celery, and spinach, helps with vision and lowering cancer risks.   Purple and blue fruits and vegetables also have antioxidant benefits and may help with memory, anti-aging, and reducing cancer risks.  Even white fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower, white peaches, and mushrooms may promote heart health and prevent cancer.

Dark Green Leafys

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

  Kales, and all dark green leafy vegetables such as collards, turnips, mustard greens, and Swiss chard, are a must-have for your grocery card.  These nutritional superstars are chock full of vitamins A, C, and K, folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, lutein, and fiber.  Kale can be one of the milder tasting greens so if you and your family are new to dark green leafys, this one is a nice place to start.

 

Kale Chips

Rinse fresh kale and remove excess moisture with paper towels.   Remove and discard any tough stems and ribs from the leaves.  Tear into bite-size pieces.  Toss lightly in olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.   Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in 375o oven until crispy, about 5-10 minutes. 

Optional dip:  Mix together 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp salt.

Edama-who?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Also known as the soybean, edamame is seeing increased popularity in the United States.  Originally found in only Asian cuisine, this green vegetable is a fantastic source of lean protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.  To retain its freshness and flavor, edamame are often parboiled and quick-frozen.  They can be purchased whole or already shelled.  Shelled edamame can be used as a vegetable side dish, in soups, on salads, or as an alternative to corn and peas, which are lower in nutritional value. To eat as a snack, first boil whole edamame pods briefly in lightly salted water.  Then, use your fingers or teeth to squeeze the seeds directly from the pod into the mouth. Try a yummy and healthy handful yourself!

Yogurt, a.k.a. the “New” candy

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Yogurt quality varies considerably and many of the yogurts targeted at kids are no better than candy in a cup.   When grocery shopping for yogurt, make it an opportunity to educate your child on how food manufacturers use marketing techniques such as bright colors, cartoon characters, and fancy packaging to “trick” them into making nutritionally poor choices.  Show your child how to check the nutrition labels to choose a yogurt that is high in calcium and active yogurt cultures (such as L.Acidophilus, B.Bifidum, and L.Bulgariucus) and low in added sweeteners, colors, and artificial ingredients.    If your family still balks for a super-sweetened yogurt, try mixing in an increasingly larger portion of plain yogurt over time until their taste buds have adjusted.

You Can Bet Your Butternut

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

With a sweet, nutty taste similar to pumpkin, butternut squash can add color and nutritional value to your plate.  One cup of butternut squash provides 160% of the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin A.  It is also packed with vitamin C, manganese, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.  Roast it, toast it, mash it, add it to breads, muffins, soups, and casseroles.  Ah, if only my spouse could be quite so versatile.

Butternut Squash and Apple Puree

6 tbsp butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 large butternut squash (about 2 ½ pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes

4 Gala or sweet apples (about 2 pounds total), peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes

Heat 2 tbsp butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add squash, apples, and 1 cup water.  Cover and simmer until squash is tender and most of the liquid is evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer squash mixture to a food processor.  Add remaining 4 tbsp butter; process until smooth.